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Locking Out Competing Providers is Bad

Patrik Fältström

Today one of the headlines in Computer Sweden was that there is a dispute between Telia and the regulator PTS in Sweden. PTS requires Telia to stop locking out competing TV-distribution companies for IP-TV in the access network (DSL) that Telia runs. Specifically, they lean towards the fact Telia is dominant provider of the copper, and require Telia to competitors give access to the larger frequency band in the copper that they claim is needed for TV distribution.

I understand why the regulator have to concentrate on this detail in how the TV distribution is implemented in the Telia copper network as the only legislation we have in Sweden regarding dominant player is targeting Telia (and the copper). But it would have been better if the legislation would have been more technology neutral so that the regulator could apply it on (more or less) any similar situation. Also when fiber is in use for example.

I hope the new electronic communication directive will be better in that regard. I have looked at the proposed changes but I am not a lawyer so I can not say whether it will be "good enough" for the regulator to act.

In the case of Telia and IP-TV, there are two problems that might exist:

  • Telia as the TV distributor is delivering a service that is not accessible if the viewer/customer is outside the Telia DSL network. What might be bad with that is if the consumer is not informed about this before the viewer signs up to the service.
  • Telia as the access network provider is locking out competing TV distribution companies. And this is what the PTS in Sweden is looking at.

Of course, this is not something special for Telia or IP-TV, this is a general problem with all networks and services which are so called "walled gardens" (although that is such a bad word that no access provider accept their network is a walled garden). Including the ones where the access provider claim they are an open network, but only services that are "accepted" by the access network is available. In that case it is still not the customer of the access network that chooses. Sure, they choose between the available services, but, they can not choose others. There is in this case no effective choice.

Just look at the design of the IPX that I talked about in a presentation [PDF] about Future of the Internet. Completely against all interests of regulators. That people design those technical solutions — today!

By Patrik Fältström, Technical Director and Head of Security at Netnod
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